Purdue was teetering. Desperate Washington was roaring back. The Huskies' close-to-home crowd was screaming. And the stifling intensity that makes the NCAA tournament so popular blanketed the court.
Amid all that, JaJuan Johnson stood tallest.
As if on a pogo stick, Johnson blocked not one but two attempts by Washington to tie the game with a minute remaining. He also scored 22 points as the fifth-seeded Boilermakers held off a frantic charge to beat the fourth-seeded Huskies, 76-74, in Portland, Ore., to advance to their first regional semifinals since 2000.
"We finally got over the hump!" E'Twaun Moore said in the hallway of the arena minutes after his clinching free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining. The Boilermakers (27-9), who won the Big Ten tournament, led the entire game but nearly blew a 14-point lead to the frenzied Huskies.
Now comes top-seeded Connecticut.
"A lot of people talk about offensive possessions and making shots. It always comes down to making stops," Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the 6-foot-10 Johnson denying Isaiah Thomas' dash to the basket and then Quincy Pondexter's short jumper in the lane with 57.8 seconds left.
Johnson sounded as if he didn't understand all the fuss over his third and fourth blocked shots of the game.
"I blocked the first shot from Thomas and I realized the shot clock was getting low. So when Pondexter got the ball, I just went after it," he said.
Thomas scored 24 points, Pondexter had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jon Brockman added 20 points and 18 rebounds - the 60th and final double double of his career for the nation's active leader - for Washington (26-9). The regular-season champion of the Pacific-10 trailed by 14 with 79 seconds elapsed in the second half before getting within two five times in the final 7:13. But the Huskies never tied or went ahead.
All three Huskies had reddened eyes as they struggled to comprehend that their desperation push fell just short.
"It's funny: There's really only one happy team at the end of the NCAA tournament," Brockman said.
Connecticut 92, Texas A&M; 66: : Jim Calhoun and the Huskies are back in familiar spots. Calhoun returned to his regular seat on the bench and led Connecticut to another berth in the round of 16. A.J. Price scored 27 points, Jeff Adrien had 23 and the Huskies dominated the Aggies from the opening tip in Philadelphia, putting Connecticut in the Sweet 16 for the 12th time under their Hall of Fame coach.
"Are we special yet?" Calhoun asked. "A couple of wins from now, we're going to have an idea."
After getting treatment for dehydration and missing Connecticut's first-round game, Calhoun came back and never had to worry. The Huskies scored the first 10 points and kept pulling away for their second straight blowout in the tournament.
Stanley Robinson had 12 points for the top-seeded Huskies (29-4), who next play in Glendale, Ariz.
How's this for a possible omen of what's ahead for UConn? The 1999 and 2004 national championships both went through the Phoenix area and Calhoun missed a game in each tournament because of illness.
Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan led overmatched Texas A&M; with 12 points each. The ninth-seeded Aggies (24-10) were knocked out by the top seed in the second round for the second straight tournament.